Russian forces in occupied Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, are kidnapping and torturing civilians, ratcheting up pressure ahead of a planned annexation “referendum,” Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov said during a press briefing on July 28.
“They produce videos in which people are coerced into confessing to every imaginable (crime), while being completely innocent,” said Fedorov.
Fedorov said that at around 20 Melitopol residents are known be currently held captive by Russian occupation “authorities.”
“As it stands, around 20 people are currently held captive in Melitopol alone, according to the official records we maintain together with (Zaporizhzhia) regional administration,” the mayor added.
The true number of illegally imprisoned civilians in the city could be much higher, Fedorov said.
Ukrainian intelligence earlier reported that Russia intends to hold a series of sham referendums across occupied Ukrainian territories, attempting to legitimize their annexation.
The White House said on July 20 that Moscow is preparing to annex currently occupied Ukrainian territories.